New Delhi, ACCRA, APRIL 23, (dpa/GNA) – Rights activists Thursday protested a move by the Indian cabinet to lower the age for trial as an adult from 18 to 16 for crimes considered “heinous.”
“You cannot criminalize and brutalize children through your own courts,” said Kavita Srivastava of the People’s Union of Civil Liberties said.
“The core of our justice system is corrective and reformatory.”
The cabinet Wednesday approved a bill to reform the 2000 Juvenile Justice Act, which fixes the minimum age for trial as an adult at 18.
The bill would have to go before parliament, where a working group has already opposed such a move.
But the activists still criticized the cabinet’s bill.
“How can we lose an objective perspective because of one case?” Srivastava said.
She was referring to the three-year sentence given to one of the men convicted in the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old student in 2012, on the grounds he was 17.
The sentence, the maximum for a minor, was widely seen as too light. Four others convicted in the same case were given the death sentence and are currently appealing.
The amendments would only see accused aged 16 to 18 tried as adults for specific crimes, and then only after the assessment of psychologists and other expert witnesses.
But activists still said minors would be exposed to inappropriate punishment.
“Children do reform, they must be given the opportunity,” said Bharti Ali of Delhi-based child rights organisation Haq.
“Discriminating between children would be violative of the Constitution.” GNA